This morning we are continuing in our Major Messages From the Minor Prophets series but I actually want to begin my message with a New Testament passage because it helps put into perspective the book of Zephaniah that we are going to be looking at today
In the 8th chapter of John’s gospel Jesus is speaking to a group of Jews of who, verse 31 says, “had believed Him”
Despite this Jesus confronts them because they “are determined to kill Him” (verse40)
It all comes to a head when, in the 44th verse, Jesus makes this very bold statement ,
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The enemy of our soul, and I use that term “enemy” in the strongest possible sense, is determined to “steal, kill, and destroy” you and his greatest weapon is one that he designed and built himself, LIES!
In fact lies are his only weapon, it is the weapon he used to destroy mankind back in the garden and it is the weapon he will use to bring about the final rebellion against God recorded in Revelation
It is the same weapon he has used throughout all of history to try and accomplish his goal of destroying God’s beloved creation
As we take a look at the book of Zephaniah we will see that this prophet of God was used to expose 3 deadly lies of the enemy that had been believed by the people
Just before we look at what those lies are however, I believe that we need to take a look at a key phrase used often by Zephaniah, “The day of the Lord”
This was a common phrase in the writings of the prophets both minor and major but no minor prophet used the term more than the prophet Zephaniah
It’s a phrase that I’m sure you have heard many times but may be a little confused as to its meaning
So let me give you the definition as it appears in The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible
“An expression used by O.T. prophets to signify a time in which God actively intervenes in history, primarily for judgement. Sometimes “the day of the Lord” is used in the O.T. to speak of a past judgement. More often an impending future judgement is in view. Ultimately, though, the term refers to climatic future judgement of the world. Often prophecy of a near-future event and an end-time prophecy are merged, the immediate judgement being a preview of the final day of the Lord”
It’s that final part where we find ourselves in the book of Zephaniah, “Often prophecy of a near-future event and an end-time prophecy are merged, the immediate judgement being a preview of the final day of the Lord”
Because the people had believed these 3 lies of the enemy Zephaniah was warn
Zephaniah was warning the people of an impending judgement because they had believed these 3 lies of the enemy and we must be aware that he is still using these lies and be aware that there is still a judgement of God because of them and that the final judgement that is coming will deal with them once and for all
So let’s get started with the first lie, the lie of complacency in the face of sin
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad.’
The first deadly lie of the devil is the lie of complacency
Dictionary.com defines complacency as, “self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition”
The people of Israel had become sinful and were living double lives, they were full of “violence and deceit” (v9) and they had convinced themselves that because God had never done anything about it before, He certainly wasn’t going to do anything now
They had become comfortable in and with their sin, a place that is never good to be in
The Apostle Paul warned the Christians of Galatia about this very same condition,
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Peter also warned of this deadly condition when he wrote of the day of the Lord that is still to come
I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
2 Peter 3:
He continues a little later,
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
You’ve heard me say this before and should God tarry you will hear me say this many more times, ‘Do not mistake God’s patient grace for His approval’
Do NOT believe the lie of complacency that “The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad” because such a lie will lead to your destruction
He calls us to repentance, to turn back to Him and commit ourselves fully to His ways before it is too late
The second deadly lie that the people had believed can be seen in chapter 3 verse 2, the lie of confidence
She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.
Now confidence in and of itself is not a bad thing, as long as said confidence is placed in the right source
The people had believed the lie that the solution to all of life’s problems was found within
One of the most popular phrases of the recent past came from Henry Ford, ‘Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right”
The story is told about a group of scientists who had gathered at a conference and over dinner while talking they decided that the world had evolved so far that it no longer had a need for God
So they decided to have a meeting with God and tell Him the bad news, so the meeting was set up
They approached Him and began explaining all the incredible advances that science had made
“In fact,” they said, “science has advanced so far that we can do everything that you can do and mankind no longer has a need of you”
God paused for a moment and replied, “I’ll tell you what, let’s have a man making competition and if I win you have to acknowledge your need of me and if you win I will leave mankind alone forever. BUT we do it by the original rules, the way I did it in the beginning.”
This seemed good to the scientists so they agreed and they invited God to go first
God reached down into the dirt and He took a bit of mud and began to form a man in His hands
After only a few seconds there, before the scientists stood the most perfect specimen of a human being they had ever laid their eyes on
And God leaned over and breathed into the man and he came to life
The scientists were indeed impressed but believing that they could do even better they reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt to which God said, “Oh no you have to get your own dirt!”
At the time of the N.T. Athens was a city that was full of human arrogance, it was the chief city of Attica and was filled with places of study and populated by the great philosophers of the day
During Paul’s time there he sat and debated with the greatest of these thinkers and said in part,
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Have you ever noticed how man is so often fine without God…until things go wrong and then all of a sudden we realize we need Him?
We need to repent of that lie and instead of leaning on our own understanding acknowledge Him in ALL our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The third lie is related to the second and that is that in their self-reliance they became cocky
They were filled with pride, let’s go back to
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this point because it is a point that we have covered already a few times in this series
But having said that, when a theme occurs continuously in a book, or in this case in a series of books, it is probably worth taking special notice of that theme
Going back again to chapter 3 we see a strong warning by God,
On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord.
And through Isaiah God says,
The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),
The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),
Peter closed out his first epistle with this this command, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.”
I believe that it is impossible for me to preach on this too much or to overemphasize the importance of humility because the lie of pride is one that we can fall into too easily and without even realizing it
So there you have it, the book of Zephaniah wrapped up in the exposing of 3 deadly lies;
the lie of complacency,
the lie of confidence in self,
and the lie of cockiness of pride
Be alert and on the lookout for these lies because they are just as prevalent and just as deadly today as they were in Zephaniah’s day
And if the Spirit should speak to you about any of these lies, listen to Him and be quick to repent for when the day of the Lord comes, and it is coming soon, it will be too late
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
2 Peter 3:10-12